Have you ever left something behind, realized it was missing and thought ‘I’ll be OK without it,” only to realize later on that you really can’t do without it?
And in that moment when you realize that thing was absolutely essential, suddenly you’re overcome with that sinking, stomach pitting feeling of regret: if only you hadn’t left it behind.
After I crossed the finish line of the CHaD Hero 5K a few weeks ago and caught my breath enough so that the “I’m going to die” feeling of the 5K subsided a little, I was overwhelmed by a sinking feeling of disappointment.
I’d left something behind.
I took my finishers medal and my water zipped back to the VIP tent, changed my shoes and headed out for a cool down. I wanted to get away from the crowd and the race-buzz and be alone with this feeling. This regret.
I ran down the street, past the water table, past the band playing music, past the cop directing traffic, past the cones until I was in a neighborhood and where there were no signs of the race.
What have I done? I gave up. I gave up on a dream I’ve held in my heart for the last five years.
The Langston Hughes poem Dreams replayed in my mind. It has long been a favorite of mine and was once posted on my dorm room wall.
Dreams Hold fast to dreams For if dreams die Life is a broken-winged bird That cannot fly. Hold fast to dreams For when dreams go Life is a barren field Frozen with snow.
Rewind to July. I’d finished the last mountain race of the summer and was shifting gears to go into half marathon training for the CHaD Hero Half. The workout for the day: 10 miles with 6 miles at half marathon goal race pace (6:52). I struggled through the run, barely managing 7:20’s on the 6 miles that should have been race pace. I stopped almost every 1/2 mile, cursing, discouraged wondering how the heck I had any chance of reaching my goal of running 1:30 at the CHaD Half would ever happen.
A few days later I abandoned my goal of running the half marathon, opted to run the 5K instead and shifted my focus back to the mountains.
I can do it myself
My mom likes to the tell the story of how I learned to ride a bicycle: I refused help and I didn’t want anyone to watch. I remember that pink Shwinn with the white banana seat and purple stars. After my Dad took the training wheels off, I was determined to figure out how to ride without anyone’s assistance. I crashed by myself. I got up by myself. I tried over and over by myself. Until I accomplished what I’d set out to do and announced to everyone in the family they could come and watch. See! Look at this amazing thing I did!
Maybe I was afraid of people seeing the struggle? Or maybe I was afraid that witness would codify my failure? Who knows what was going through my seven-year old brain, but not much has changed in the 28 years since then.
I tend to hold big goals close to my heart. I keep them to myself waiting for that moment of accomplishment when I can say, See! Look at this amazing thing I did!
A dream is born
When our son Jack became a patient at the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock I poured all the anxiety and emotion of that difficult period into the CHaD Hero Half Marathon.
I made a goal of raising $5,000 and I wanted to run 1:35 in the half marathon and finish in the top 5 women. Prior to that point I had never run faster than 1:45, and when I did run that time I had been thrilled. My half marathon pace started with a 7 and I thought I had arrived.
There was something about setting a huge goal of shaving 10 minutes off my half time that gave me something to focus on other than my son’s surgeries and hospital stays. That goal I set back in 2013 and that time in my life changed me as a runner and as a person. Setting that big time goal catapulted me towards my BQ, running a 1:34 half and breaking 20 in the 5K, things I never though I’d do.
The goal I put out for everyone to see, the goal of finishing in the top 5 women…that wasn’t the real goal.
The real goal. The one I’ve held in my heart for the past five years, the goal that I gave up on during that disappointing workout in July…that goal is to win the CHaD Hero Half Marathon.
I want to be the woman that breaks the tape. To cross the finish line with my arms in the air and WIN. To have my “F*ck Yes!” moment.
That one big moment
Like many of you, I watched Shalane Flanagan win the NYC Marathon on Sunday and was inspired. I’ve been re-watching that moment and her pre and post-race interviews. I’ve known she was gutsy and gritty. I knew she liked to put big goals out there, but in her pre-race interviews, the confidence with which she speaks is amazing to me. She’s unashamed to publicly announce big goals that seem impossible and she has no reservations about her desire to chase that “one big moment.”
I love the grind and the journey, but I love those big moments too and that’s what I want for myself in winning the CHaD Hero. But as much as it is about myself it’s also about an emphatic end to that time in my life when my little infant son’s life seemed uncertain.
I’ve spent the last year training for and racing the mountains and I’ve found a new love. But really part of the reason I crossed over to the mountains was because I’d given up on that CHaD goal and gone in search of that “one big moment” somewhere else. Maybe I will one day find triumph in the mountains or peace, and I’ll still race all the same mountains this next year, but for now I have some unfinished business on the roads.
I’ve got a lot of work to do if I’m going to win the CHaD Hero Half Marathon.
Do you keep your goals to yourself or do you tell other people?
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Email: RunFarGirl [at] gmail [dot] com